It’s been many years since this Easter Basket Collection outreach started. And much time has past since God gave me the vision to start Families Building Faith. At that time, my son was four years old going on five.
The vision that He had given me had sprung in part from my own situation. Longing to know Him better and desiring to walk daily (in the sense of more than just on Sundays) with others who had the same heart for Him, He laid before me the idea of a network of believers who would come together to strengthen faith. In the breadth of that view was also those we live life with…it was never meant to be solely about our individual experiences. That somehow by growing, stretching and building our own faith, God’s light and love would spill over into their hearts and lives. Kind of like a pebble being dropped into a pond, the ripples keep expanding as the waves move outward from the entry point of the rock impacting the water. As we walk closer with God, was it possible that light, faith and hope would be the ripple effects touching those around us?
So my four year old went in tow with me on this journey to build and grow faith. He rode in the car as we delivered food, blankets, baskets, clothes, toys and so many other things. He played at Bible studies and as he grew older, he entertained himself when I needed to work on something. He listened to me talk with others and listened to them share their stories with me. He helped carry items up and down stairs, loaded cars, and gracefully and kindly spoke to those who passed through our lives. As he grew and became more of a young man, there were the inevitable moments of deep sighs, “Do I have to?”s, and frustration-filled comments when he tired of what God has asked our family to do. Yet, more times than not, he is there faithfully alongside my husband and I.
It is funny how each session of serving often brings me something new to learn. Honestly, there are many lessons each season. For years, I have been emphasizing to parents that their children truly love to serve with them. Their eyes, their hands and the enthusiasm in their voices share how much they want their parents to see and believe in what they are doing for another. Rarely does an Easter assembly happen that the child isn’t bouncing off of the walls to show their parents what they have created. They don’t want to be just dropped off and picked up. Nor does being present in the same room but talking with another adult for the majority of the time necessarily convey to them that the parent really cares. Nor does being hovered over or continually questioned as they build their baskets. Instead, what we see is this strong desire to build and work with their parent or caretaker…for their parent to actively engage and share in their excitement through thoughtful and sincere encouragement, kind instruction, and lots of joyful affirmations. I find myself deeply committed to the idea that this outreach truly offers families of all ages a chance to not only serve together, but to grow together…
And there the lesson stood toe-to-toe with me last night looking me right in the eye. I was working in the basement sorting through donations that had come in. My son, now many years older, was upstairs relaxing. A bit later, down the stairs, I heard his steps. Within short order, he was at my side chattering about his latest adventure, what he hopes to learn to improve his game, and his latest set of goals. He spoke for quite awhile as I listened and sorted. A couple of times, he mentioned that he took a break specifically because he wanted to come downstairs and help, and then his conversation would turn back to what it was before. Now and then, I would hand him something to help with. As my tasks came to an end, he stated he would like to build a basket.
Now, he builds lots of amazing baskets. We don’t force him to build each session as we don’t want him to hate Easter nor this outreach. We also don’t force him to always carry items up nor necessarily engage in all that we do as teens battle enough things in life that offer opportunities for resentment and bitterness; we surely don’t want to add to that. But many times, he will come downstairs during an assembly and make a couple before heading back upstairs again. A long time ago, he graduated to making them all on his own. He is truly very good at it. As he brought up making a basket again, I told him, “Sure, go ahead. I’ve got just a few more things to do.”
No mom, I don’t want to build one by myself. I want to build one with you. You and me together.”
There it was. What I had grown aware of in other children, I now saw in my own son. That longing to work together on a project that benefits someone else. To be engaged together as a single team that produces something by both of our hands working towards the same goal: making someone feel extra special. While we can often do things alone, there’s something to be said for why God calls us together, to function together as His body…
I smiled, not lost to the lesson at hand. As we began to assemble a boy basket, I wondered how many times he, too, longed to have my instruction, my affirmation and my time in this outreach as I have seen so many other children long for their parents’ attention and help? He has always had my encouragement and approval to build, but my time…it is often spent with others…helping them learn, grow and build. So as we worked through the system, I gave him the same that I give and hope for with any other child…my passion, my excitement, my instruction, my patience and my time. And what I saw was what I see so many parents seemingly miss…the opportunity to truly understand just how thoughtful, caring and creative that young person is who God has graced us with in our lives. As we got done, I was deeply impressed by his heart, his hands and his mind, and so incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work together.
Thank You God for the reminders that this outreach has much to teach, offers so much to love, and reaches so much farther into the hearts of more than just those who are in physical and financial need…